CAIRO: The Ministry of Supply is set to liberalize flour prices in the near future, aiming to put an end to the sale of flour on the black market, state news agency MENA reported, Monday.
Minister of Supply Khaled Hanafy nonetheless told MENA, “Bread is a red line.” He affirmed that subsidized bread will be available to citizens at the same prices, adding that the ministry is also working to shorten queues for citizens buying bread.
“It is not the first time that the Ministry of Supply liberalizes flour prices. It has happened several times in past governments, but was pointless, because there is no particular study to solve wheat, flour and bread issues,” Abdul Muti Lotfy, Vice-President of the Federation of Associations of Economic Development, said to The Cairo Post, commenting on the minister’s statement.
He said that the policy of liberalizing flour prices failed because of the failure to distribute bread equitably and activate an apparatus to control baking and distribution.
Lofty added that liberalizing flour prices is a good step in itself, as it ensures that national subsidies go to those who deserve it, especially after the increase in the required budget for subsidies.
He noted however that none of the former supply ministries were able to stop the black market for flour and that he believes that the statement is simply a way to lobby the trust of the people. The ministry’s policy cannot achieve the liberalization of flour price in this short period of time, he added.
He further stated that the way to resolve this issue is through acquiring new wheat strains to improve the production, and to reclaim desert land to expand agricultural growth, which he stated will require at least five years.
Further, a housewife called Heba Ragab told The Cairo Post that the last time that she was able to obtain subsidized bread was three weeks ago. “I went to subsidized bread oven, and after two and a half hours of waiting, I managed to get only 10 loaves of bread, because of the long queue.”
She further commented that the quality of bread was substandard.
Subsidized bread has long been the topic of vicious contention; at the peak of the crisis, in 2010, several reports circulated of people dying in bread lines, due to altercations that arose there.
The quality of subsidized bread has steadily decreased since, and with toughening economic circumstances, the average Egyptian family’s capacity to buy unsubsidized bread, which costs 50 piasters per load, has become increasingly difficult.